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Hong Kong's Most Attractive Employers in 2023

By Universum, 2023-07-13

Google, the HKSAR Government and J.P. Morgan ranked as the most attractive employers to Hong Kong university graduates

Expected salary from university graduates for their first full-time job dropped slightly compared to 2022.

Universum, a global thought leader in employer branding, today announced the Hong Kong findings of its latest annual global talent survey. Surveying over 4,000 students from nine universities in Hong Kong, Universum’s research aims to measure and uncover key insights about the career aspirations and preferences of Hong Kong’s next- generation of talent. The findings assess several metrics, including preferred employers and work environments, expected annual remuneration and career pathways that upcoming graduates are looking for when they join Hong Kong’s job market.

This year, J.P. Morgan retained its top position as an ideal employer among business/commerce students, followed by HSBC, similar to the previous year. For the fourth consecutive year, the HKSAR Government has been selected by engineering/natural sciences students as their top ideal employer. For students across both disciplines, tech giant Google continues to be ranked amongst them as one of their top five most attractive companies.

Students’ preferences have stayed consistent from last year in Ideal Employer Rankings

Business/commerce students ranked banking as their most preferred industry (50%), followed by financial services & technology (35%) and management & strategy consulting (33%). A notable increase was shown in students’ preference to work in management & strategy consulting, which increased by over 10% from last year. Students in business/commerce have voted J.P. Morgan and HSBC as the top two companies in the ideal employer rankings this year, consistent with the results from 2022.

Industry preferences were balanced out across engineering/natural sciences students, where they ranked education (23%), arts, entertainment & recreation (22%), computer software & technology (22%), banking (22%) and IT & engineering consulting (20%) as their top five choices. They continued to rank the HKSAR Government, Google, Apple, Microsoft and J.P. Morgan as their top five ideal employers, unchanged from 2022. However, their top 50 rankings of ideal employers saw notable shifts as Citi climbed in the list, jumping 46 places to 47.

Prioritising a friendly work environment in employment

“A friendly work environment” was ranked as students’ top preference in 2023, continuing the trend from 2022. The subsequent two preferences that were favoured most highly were “professional training & development” and “encouraging work-life balance”. On the other hand, “high future earnings” was ranked lower than the previous year, declining by 2 places to 4th position. This highlighted the shift in expectations from students, as they increasingly prioritize factors impacting their well-being more over financial earnings.

Students seeking 3% less starting salary – a wake-up call?

The 2023 survey results showed a decrease in students’ expected annual salary upon graduation, where it declined to HKD292.9k (HKD24.4k per month) from HKD303.0k (HKD25.2k per month) in 2022, dropping 3%. This reversed the trend set from 2022’s survey, which had then revealed a 19% increase in students’ expected annual salary in comparison to 2021. This suggests that students are likely aware of the shift away from the Great Resignation period and into a less certain economic environment where high-profile layoffs are more common, and hence are more prudent in their salary expectations.

Amongst students studying business/commerce, expected salaries decreased by 6% to HKD279.7k per annum (HKD23.3k per month), while engineering/natural sciences students’ expected salaries showed a relatively smaller decrease of 2% to HKD299.2k per annum (HKD24.9k per month), compared to 2022.

Mike Parsons, Managing Director of APAC for Universum, said, “Universum’s annual survey clearly highlights the change in trends and preferences amongst Hong Kong’s emerging talent pool in the job market. Whereas all the metrics we measure are important, it is the shifts in prioritization that are most telling. Right now, we are seeing young talent in Hong Kong prioritizing work environment and career development over financial earnings and salary, a trend that can be seen in many of the more developed markets worldwide. Tomorrow’s workforce is highly motivated by acknowledgement and growth opportunities that enable them to feel valued and included in their community, with financial compensation often coming second.

From an employer perspective, this notable shift in values and priorities provides them with an opportunity to redefine their offers and messaging to prospective talent. In view of the ongoing talent crunch and keen competition for talent in Hong Kong, employers need to emphasize that employees will be provided with a healthy work environment that delivers purpose and value, to differentiate themselves from competitors regarding the opportunities available within the organisation.”

Gender gap in expected annual salary widens despite last year’s closing of the gap

In 2023, the gender gap on expected annual salary widened to 9% with expected salaries of men at HKD320.7k and women at HKD293.4k per annum. This contrasts with 2022’s survey results, which showed a significant decrease in the gender pay gap to 7% and the lowest gender pay gap in five years. However, this year’s pay expectation disparity between male and female students in Hong Kong is relatively lower than in previous years, where the gender gap has repeatedly been in the double-digit range (2019: 12%, 2020: 14%, 2021: 13%). This indicates that while talent are aware of the tougher economic conditions compared to a year ago, the drop in confidence is slightly higher among females.

Increasing importance of LinkedIn and Instagram to engage with future talent

Talents are increasingly using social media channels, such as LinkedIn and Instagram, as a channel to learn about employers and organizations. Social media was ranked as the most used communication channel among talent (62%), showing a 7% increase from 55% in 2022.

Online job boards (second most used communication channel) and employer’s career websites (second most used online platform) are also still important sources for students to find out about employers. With a range of at least four channels as sources of information on their preferred employer, this demonstrates how talents are ensuring they do adequate research when deciding on where to apply and what offers to accept.

Commenting on the prevalence of social media being used as a tool of reference and influence, Parsons said, “Our data indicates students frequently turn to social media as a source of information to learn more about potential employers. Students highly value insights on the topics that matter the most to them, such as remuneration and benefits, training and development opportunities, advancement pathways and working environments. Employers need to ensure they are leveraging these channels in order to avoid being overlooked by their targeted future talent. ”

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